Debugging Affects Quality, Time, and Money

            Quality in housing construction is affected by the extent and thoroughness of debugging because supervision time in the field is a limited resource…in single-family and production tract housing.

            For example, suppose over the course of a typical three-year construction tract housing project a total of 500 previously unanswered questions must be addressed, activities in the field quality-checked, and yes/no decisions made that will take the project construction across the finish-line.

            If people in the field could hypothetically get 100 of those 500 issues resolved upfront through a company-wide debugging program, before the construction starts, then “only” 400 issues/questions remain to be resolved individually during the construction. 

            If 150 problems and questions out of the 500 could be answered upfront through constructability analysis and a checklist of past solved issues…then “only” 350 real problems remain to be resolved during the construction.

            If at the outset of the project…there are 200 solutions and answers to the original 500 problems…then only 300 more remain to be analyzed and resolved during the construction.

            There is a finite numerical limit to the issues and questions that need to be addressed on every building construction project…irrespective of the complexity of the construction and the magnitude of each issue or question.

            The greater the number of problems, questions, and bugs that can be identified upfront and quickly and correctly resolved while the project is still on paper, the fewer the number of problems remain to be confronted and solved during the construction. 

            This translates into more time available for genuine quality-control and manpower production, rather than spent in daily “putting-out fires” in the reactive-mode.

            A building construction project can get quickly into trouble in terms of quality when the number of latent/hidden problems inherently buried in the project…are greater than what can be handled by the field staff. 

            When the field staff is constantly engaged in “putting-out fires”…the construction is forced into a reactive, damage-control mode…which then pushes out the option for genuine quality-control and time-management.

            The benefits of spotting and resolving design and construction problems upfront, before the construction begins, cannot be overstated in terms of quality-assurance.

            Small problems and mistakes, if not caught and corrected early can adversely affect future building trades down-stream in the construction…that can snowball into multiple problems due to the commonly known phenomenon called the “ripple effect.”

            For example, a bowed wall framing stud by itself can be easily removed by the framer…requiring only one repair effort.

            A bowed or twisted 4×6 or 4×8 structural post in the wall framing…with electrical wires running through it requires the framing carpenter and the electrician…if the post needs to be replaced.

            A bowed wall along the floor baseboard…if not discovered until the wall is drywalled, painted, and the baseboard installed…requires three or more separate building trades to repair and straighten.

            A bowed wall along a bathroom floor having square-shaped ceramic tile flooring…that is not discovered until very late at the time of the homebuyer walkthrough…requires not only the framing carpenter, drywaller, painter, and finish carpenter…but also the floor tile installer to replace the tiles at the bowed wall after the wall is straightened.

            The longer a problem or construction bug goes undetected the worse the repair can get…especially in production tract housing involving a large number of units. 

Project Direction Map

For larger condominium and apartment projects…the builder should consider installing a direction map board at the main entrance into the project.

This activity should be completed about the same time as the sales models grand opening…installed concurrent with the sales models complex landscaping.

On a particular 282-unit condominium project…the u-shaped buildings had their entry doors and address numbers on the outside perimeter of each 12-unit building…one floor level above a central motor courtyard and above street level.

People driving into the project had no way of finding the house address numbers without getting out of their cars and walking around the buildings.

Not only was it difficult for visitors to find their way around the project, but delivery companies had problems as well.

Landscaping Contingencies

When composing the landscaping maintenance contract for the sales models complex…the builder should include the possibility of contingencies difficult to predict…such as snails, ants, and gophers.

Activities such as fertilizing and trimming, however, should be included within the landscape contract rather than spelled out as extras…because these activities are predictable.

Gopher abatement is less arbitrary to anticipate and plan for…than ants or snails…and can be handled through an agreed-upon fixed monthly amount.  The builder can budget some dollar amount for this landscaping activity.

Snail and ant problems are more difficult to predict…with ants being completely unpredictable from one year to the next.  One year no ants are on the project, and the next year the sales models complex can be overrun with ants.

The builder should be aware of these potential abatement costs, and have some money set aside as a contingency line-item based upon discussions with the landscaping contractor.

Sales Office Views & Tree Placement

For projects with panoramic views of golf courses, mountains, hillsides, rivers, streams, and ocean views…the builder should physically lay-out the placement of new trees using visual line-of-sights out through the windows of the sales office and the models units.

In coordination with the landscaping plans for the sales office and the sales models…the views out each individual window can thus be maximized in terms of actual placement and size of tree…when following the landscaping plan precisely may produce tree placements that are slightly off and not optimum for a particular view.

One method to achieve optimum placements of the trees is to have someone stand outside at the approximate location of a tree or large shrub per the landscape plans…and hold up a push broom or a cardboard mock-up of a tree.

The decision-maker then stands at the particular window…moves the person holding the broom to the best location to maximize the view…then the exact spot chosen is marked.

This simple operation can add a subtle but important benefit to the project…getting the most out of a particular view.